A built-in asteroid – the target of NASA's sample return mission – is spinning faster over time, an observation that could help understand the development of asteroids and their potential threat to Earth, the scientist says.
Bennu is located 110 million kilometers from Earth. As it moves through space at 101,000 mph, it also spins, completing a full rotation every 4.3 hours.
Last year, the spacecraft, spectral interpretation, resource identification, security and Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-Rex) spacecraft arrived at Bennu, an asteroid that would study sampling over the next few years.
The study, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, found that the rotation of the asteroid accelerates by one second per hundred.
In other words, the rotation period of Bennu becomes shorter in one second every 100 years.
While the increase in rotation does not look like much, for a long time it could translate into dramatic changes in the space rock, the researchers said.
As the asteroid spins faster and faster over millions of years, it can lose parts of itself or blow itself apart, they said.
The round tumor detection helps scientists understand the kinds of changes that can happen to us, such as landslides or other long-term changes, that the OSIRIS-Rex mission will look for.
"When it's in a hurry, things need to change, so we're going to look for these things and find out how fast it is giving us clues about the kinds of things we need to look for," said Mike Nolan, a senior scientist at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at Arizona State University.
"We need to look for evidence that something else has been fairly recent, and things change as we go," said Nolan, head of the OSIRIS-Rex team.
The OSIRIS-Rex mission is planned to bring a sample of Bennu to Earth in 2023.
Understanding the cyclical change in us may help scientists understand what asteroids can tell us about the source of the solar system, how much it is possible for asteroids to pose a threat to humans and if they can be mined for resources.
To understand his son's rotation, scientists studied data from the asteroid taken from Earth in 1999 and 2005, together with data taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2012.
It was when they looked at the Hubble data that they noticed the asteroid's rotation speed in 2012 did not exactly match their predictions based on previous data.
The idea that the rotation of asteroids could accelerate with time was first predicted around 2000 and first detected in 2007. So far, this acceleration has only been detected in a handful of asteroids, Nolan said.
(This story was not edited by the Standard Business team and is automatically generated from the consolidated update).